THE LIBRARY OF THE
AT CHAPEL HILL
THE COLLECTION OF
North Caroliniana Soc
no • o
FOR USE ONLY IN
NORTH CAROLINA COLLECTIC
Digitized by the Internet Archive
in 2012 with funding from
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
by Margaret Blair McCuiston
NORTH CAROLINIANA SOCIETY IMPRINTS
This edition is limited to
five hundred copies
of which this is number
NORTH CAROLINIANA SOCIETY IMPRINTS
H. G.Jones, Editor
No. 1. An Evening at Monticello: An Essay in Reflection (1978)
by Edwin M. Gill
No. 2. The Paul Green I Know (1978)
by Elizabeth Lay Green
No. 3. The Albert Coates I Know (1979)
by Gladys Hall Coates
No. 4. The Sam Ervin I Know (1980)
by Jean Conyers Ervin
No. 5. Sam Ragan (1981)
by Neil Morgan
No. 6. Thomas Wolfe of North Carolina (1982)
edited by H. G. Jones
No. 7. Gertrude Sprague Carraway (1982)
by Sam Ragan
No. 8. John Fries Blair (1983)
by Margaret Blair McCuiston
by Margaret Blair McCuiston
Together with Proceedings of a Banquet on the Occasion of the Presentation
of the North Caroliniana Society Award for 1983
NORTH CAROLINIANA SOCIETY, INC.
Copyright © 1983 by
North Caroliniana Society, Inc.
P.O. Box 127
Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27514-0127
All rights reserved
Manufactured in the United States of America
AN EVENING WITH JOHN FRIES BLAIR
On the evening of May 20, 1983, friends and relatives attended a reception
and banquet in the Carolina Inn, Chapel Hill, honoring fohn Fries Blair on the oc-
casion of his acceptance of the North Caroliniana Society Award for 1983. The
master of ceremonies was Dr. H. G.Jones, curator of the North Carolina Collec-
tion and secretary-treasurer of the North Caroliniana Society; and the award was
presented by Archie K. Davis, president of the Society. Brief tributes were given by
Sam Ragan and Albert Coates, followed by the secret main speaker, Margaret
Blair McCuis ton, sister of the honoree. Their remarks, along with the recipient's re-
sponse, are published in this the eighth number in the North Caroliniana Society
Imprints series. Included also, with special permission, is Roy Thompson's story on
Blair that appeared in the Winston-Salem Journal of May 22, 1983.
JN RECOGNITION OF SERVICE: John Fries Blair at top holds the
North Caroliniana Society Award for 1983, and at bottom he is shown with his
sister, Margaret Blair McCuiston, the surprise speaker, and Archie K. Davis,
president of the North Caroliniana Society. (Top photo by Mae Woods Bell;
others unless noted by Jerry W. Cotten.)
Four oj the speakers who honored John Fries Blair, jrom left to right, top to bot-
tom: Dr. H.G. Jones, secretary of the Society and master of ceremonies; Sam
Ragan, who spoke of Blair's contributions to literature; Albert Coates, who de-
scribed his public service; and Margaret Blair McCuiston, who traced her brother's
The banquet gave Blair an opportunity to renew old friendships. At top, he chats
with George H. Esser, former colleague at the Institute of Government; and at
bottom he shares a hearty laugh with John W. Harden, author, businessman, and
At top Albert Coates (left), founder of the Institute of Government, talks with
the Reverend William W. Finlater, civil libertarian; and at bottom two editors —
Sam Ragan of the Pilot (Southern Pines) and Roy Parker, jr., of the Fayette-
ville Times — carry on an intense discussion.
In top photograph, former Governor and Mrs. Dan K. Moore converse with
Archie K. Davis, president of the North Caroliniana Society; and at bottom
H.B. (Mack) Webb (center) shares a drink with Frances Wellman and her hus-
band, Manly Wade Wellman, the state's most prolific book writer.
DR. H. G. JONES, Master of Ceremonies:
Nearly forty years ago, he stole much of the applause on the stage of
the Carolina Playmakers as Conover in State of the Union, Canon Matt La-
velle in The White Steed, and Don Carawan in Calliope. (Don Carawan —
drop the "Cara" and we get Don Juan!) He cut a lithe figure on the
dance floor and was the most sought-after partner on the Chapel Hill
Country Club's bachelor list.
Like Thomas Wolfe, he learned that his forte was not playwriting
after the Playmakers performed his Comhread — a Domestic Farce, featuring
such characters as Mullican, Maloney, Farmer Brown, and Lem. His act-
ing, however, continued a favorite pastime until 1961 when he was poi-
soned in Arsenic and Old Lace.
His integrity was above reproach — so solid, in fact, that his buddy
Andy Griffith entrusted his girl friends to our honoree, who, it is alleged,
never violated the trust. If so, none of the young women complained.
Since entering the publishing business in 1954, he has produced more
than 120 books, nearly a hundred of them still in print. His books have in-
cluded major contributions to our state and region, and several of them
have won literary awards. If we take a bit of liberty with a few of the
titles, we find a remarkable range of subjects: whispering pines and carni-
vorous plants; sand roots and nematodes; winter birds and spotted hawks;
white stallions and remembered mules; historic restaurants and company
shops; tapestry makers and casketmakers; weekly affairs, innocent bigamy,
and spiritual divorces; pirates, Tar Heel writers, and gloomy deans; inky
pusses, wild queens, swamp girls, painted ladies, and haloless papas; lord
hams, po' folks, hungry guts, and wet butts.
Tonight we shall hear about more sides of John Fries Blair than some
of you thought he had. Don't be surprised if that Moravian star associated
with him occasionally twinkles or even blinks as some of his hidden char-
acteristics are exposed.
But first we must expose those sitting at the head table. When you
look at this group, you may think that we should have done everything
possible to elevate them. But out of respect for the egalitarian spirit of
John Fries Blair, we have placed everybody on the same level. As I recog-
nize each person, would you rise and remain standing and would the audi-
ence withhold applause until all have been recognized.
From my far left:
1 . Mr. North Carolina History and the vice-president (former presi-
dent) of the North Caroliniana Society, William S. Powell;
2. The associate editor of The Pilot, of Southern Pines, Marjorie Ra-
3. The recipient of the second North Caroliniana Society Award,
4. A gracious lady known to all of Winston-Salem and much of
North Carolina, Mary Louise Davis.
From my far right:
5. The recipient of the fourth North Caroliniana Society Award,
6. The bylineless coauthor of a lot of Bill Powell's works, Virginia
7. The president of the North Caroliniana Society who accepted the
position only on condition that he never be subjected to the indignity of
receiving a North Caroliniana Society Award, Archie K. Davis;
8. The cofounder of the Institute of Government and the only re-
straint ever recognized by Albert, Gladys Coates;
9. And now will you join me in welcoming our guest of honor,
John Fries Blair.
Let us also welcome members of John's immediate family (please
withhold your applause until all are standing): His sister, Margaret Blair
McCuiston; his nephew, Robert A. McCuiston, Jr., and niece, Erdmuth
Venable and her husband Scott; and his grandnieces and grandnephews,
Patricia McCuiston, Robert A. McCuiston III and wife Ellen, Dorothea
Venable, William Blair Venable, Margaret Couch, and Paul Couch.
A little later we will let you take a look at the people who work every
day with John, but first, visit with your neighbors and enjoy your dinner.
When we wrote John asking permission to treat him as we have
Paul Green, Albert Coates, Sam Ervin, Sam Ragan, and Gertrude Carra-
way (the previous recipients of the North Caroliniana Society awards),
there was silence. More than a month passed. We mailed him a copy of
the original letter and observed that we needed to fix a date convenient for
him, us, and the Inn.
This time he responded promptly, explaining that though he always
sorted his mail into two piles, one marked "urgent" and the other "not
so urgent," he never got around to opening the "not so urgent" mate-
rials and that, unfortunately, it had been several weeks since he looked at
the "urgent" pile, in which our original letter had apparently rested un-
He did, however, know the perfect date for the presentation ban-
quet. Only there was a problem. April Fools' Day fell on Good Friday this
year, and as a strict Moravian he was already committed in Salem on that
You may blame us, therefore, for selecting May 20, the alleged anni-
versary of North Carolina's most famous myth, for the Carolina Inn —
built and given to the university by John Sprunt Hill for the benefit of the
North Carolina Collection — was already booked for September 28, when
John will reach the milestone of fourscore years.
We had another scare last week. The North Caroliniana Society is
noted for its stinginess, and it makes honorees pay their own way. Well,
we had received no check from John Blair. Were we to have a celebration
without the guest of honor? Archie told me not to worry — that John was
practicing good Moravian economy by leaving his $12.50 in Wachovia's
daily interest account until the last possible moment. Actually, that was
not the problem. John called and said he'd like to come but had not re-
ceived an invitation. Sure enough, we found an inexplicable "x" beside
his name on the membership list. We still have not figured out why we
failed to invite him to his own party.
John Fries Blair is the first recipient of the North Caroliniana Society
Award to have received all three of his academic degrees out of state. The
difficulty of overcoming this dreadful handicap indicates the weight given
by the Society to his public service once he returned to his roots.
I have alluded, and others will allude, to John's career as a publisher
who must read, or have others read, a mass of manuscripts in order to se-
lect those few worthy of publication. Early in his career he told a reporter
that he had a nightmare: he was walled in by a stream of unsolicited manu-
scripts. "That has already happened," says a member of his staff, for he
receives about 500 manuscripts each year. As visual evidence of his night-
mare, his staff has furnished us with a large picture showing his desk inun-
dated with stacks and stacks of typescripts. That picture, along with some
other memorabilia and many of his books, is exhibited in the hall of Wil-
son Library in a display mounted by Alice Cotten and Linda Lloyd. Un-
fortunately it is too late tonight to see the exhibit, but it will be up for
several weeks, and we invite you to come by to see it.
At this time we should acknowledge John's loyal staff. Will the fol-
lowing associates rise and remain standing so we can welcome you as a
group: Ed Friedenberg and wife, Brenda Johnson and husband, Virginia
Ingram, Marcia Harmon, Jean Pruett, and Margaret Couch. There are un-
doubtedly other former members of his staff here, and of course each of
you is his associate in some capacity. I will recognize but five more per-
sons: directly in front of us here are Governor and Mrs. Dan K. Moore,
and the Librarian of the University of North Carolina, Dr. James Govan
and Mrs. Govan, and somewhere in the audience is Dr. Gertrude Carra-
way, the recipient of our award in 1982.
Many of your friends, John, sent their regrets for being unable to
spend this evening with you. Senator Ervin, who said he reckoned he'd
better show up at a dinner given in his honor tonight by the Morganton
Shriners, sent a contribution in your honor. Former Governor Robert W
Scott is giving the commencement address at Sandhills Community Col-
lege, and Chancellor Christopher C. Fordham III has a conflicting engage-
ment. Dorothy Owen, who is in England, wrote, "Mr. Blair is a great
person . . . . " Jonathan Williams, who left today for England, wrote, "Mr.
Blair has done a lot of valuable work in North Carolina over a number of
years. I admire his quality and his persistence. May he thrive." And David
Morgan, who leaves tomorrow for England, wrote, "Please tell him that
I send congratulations and best wishes."
More messages later.
Sam Ragan is more than the poet laureate of North Carolina. For de-
cades he has led a distinguished career as a newspaperman, author, televi-
sion personality, and public servant. He and Walter Spearman have done
more to stimulate and promote the production of literature in North
Carolina than any two people alive. As a participant in and observer of the
literary scene for half a century and as the nation's first head of a state cul-
tural department, Sam can speak for the entire literary community. I am
pleased to present the recipient of the fourth North Caroliniana Society
Award, the Bard of Berea, Sam Ragan.
I always enjoy these North Caroliniana Society dinners, and it's espe-
cially enjoyable tonight as we honor an old friend, John Fries Blair.
I have never seen John Blair on the stage, although he's a consum-
mate actor and is dedicated to the theater.
I have never been in his classroom, although a career as a teacher was
one of many he has followed.
I have never seen him in the courtroom, or watched him as a counse-
lor to government — and yes, that's another facet of this remarkable man
who has done so many things.
But I do know him as John F. Blair, Publisher — and it is as a pub-
lisher that he has had such a tremendous impact on North Carolina life
He was the publisher of my first book of poetry. And having John
Blair as your editor and publisher is truly an experience. When he ac-
cepted my manuscript for publication he was as excited about it as I was.
But he's a meticulous editor, as I soon discovered that he had read every
poem and searched every comma and period. One poem he questioned —
and I admit it was a bit esoteric — but my wife Marjorie, who sat in on our
informal editorial conference, took up for it, and he graciously yielded.
But there was another in which he questioned my reporting. I had
written about a woods which had been swept by a fire storm, and I said
the limbs of trees hung down like the broken wing of a bird. John said he
thought a broken wing of a bird was hiked up, but I insisted it hung
down, and he finally accepted my version.
I never knew a publisher who was more kind, helpful, and reassur-
ing; and I have steered many other writers in his direction. They have all
received the same kind of treatment.
The benign and smiling face of John Fries Blair has been a fixture at
gatherings of the North Carolina Writers Conference for nearly 30 years.
His publishing house has earned a splendid reputation for the quality
of its books, and the gentle way of its publisher.
I firmly believe that more and more books will be published in the
future by regional publishing houses such as John F. Blair of Winston-
Salem. In a way, he has been a pioneer in the field, and North Carolina lit-
erature is greatly in his debt.
Some years ago at the annual meeting of the North Carolina Writers
Conference I was serving as chairman of the nominating committee for
new officers. I approached John Blair and asked if he would serve as chair-
man for the next year.
He demurred and protested, "With all these writers here, I don't
know. I'm just a publisher."
"Being 'just a publisher' is pretty important," I said. "A lot of these
writers wouldn't be here except for you."
He yielded and was elected chairman by acclamation.
I am honored to join in this salute to John F. Blair, Publisher.
Someone has called Albert Coates a living myth. That's not right.
He's a living reality. Few figures have cast such a long shadow on this uni-
versity community since the arrival of a bright young man from Johnston
County more than two-thirds of a century ago. His imprint will be visible
on the campus and throughout the state for generations to come; the Insti-
tute of Government stands as just one of his monuments. But Albert
Coates is a legend in his own time, particularly on a platform. Over the
years we have failed in every attempt to reign him in and to hold him to a
time limit, but tonight we try a new invention. It is called a "Terraillon,"
a "Minuteur avec cordon pour porter autour du cou." It is a timer to be
placed around the speaker's neck, and when his time is up, an alarm goes
off, an electric shock knocks him breathless, and the device climbs up the
ropes and strangles him. But we have never tested the "Albertan Terrail-
lon," and because we have no insurance, we'll simply put it beside the po-
dium. Next time, though, Albert, we're going to bell the cat! Ladies and
gentleman, the legendary but very real Albert Coates.
For thirty years the highest compliment I could pay to any man on
earth was to invite him to join the staff of the Institute of Government. I
paid that compliment to John Fries Blair in the early 1940s.
When he came on the Institute staff, I started him on a job that was
to absorb most of the three or four years he worked with the Institute of
Government. Here is the background of that job:
The coming of the automobile to North Carolina in the early 1900s
brought the beginning of laws regulating traffic in particular trouble
spots. With the rapidly increasing number of automobiles coming on the
streets and highways during the 1920s, '30s, and '40s, these laws ex-
panded into a statewide traffic code regulating every step in the driving of
an automobile on the public highways. Cities and towns followed the
state pattern each with its own separate motor vehicle code. The court de-
cisions construing this multiplicity of state laws and city ordinances were
in a hundred volumes of supreme court reports. Looking for the separate
laws bearing on the same situations was like looking for needles in hay-
I started John Fries Blair to work in this thicket of laws scattered in
different places to the point of practical inaccessibility. He tracked out the
separate laws bearing on the same points and brought them together for
the convenient use of lawyers at the bar, judges on the bench, legislators in
the General Assembly. He wrote them into guidebooks for the convenient
use of students and teachers in schools for law-enforcing officers all over
North Carolina. His work was the foundation of Institute of Government
training schools for State Highway Patrolmen for thirty years — from the
middle 1940s to the middle 1970s. It has provided the model and the start-
ing point for others who have followed in his footsteps.
I found out later that this particular job was extremely unpleasant
and distasteful to him — that his gorge would rise and flesh crawl off his
bones at the thought of it — but I did not find it out from John Fries Blair.
He went to work on the job without question and without protest. And
that brings me to the one and only point I want to make on John Fries
Blair tonight. It is rooted in a personal experience in my college days.
At the beginning of the fall term of my junior year in the University
of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1916, Dr. A.H. Patterson called me
into his ofrlce and told me I had flunked his course in physics. He said that
he had been surprised that I would flunk a course, and had looked up my
grades in other courses in the registrar's office. He had found that I had
good grades in English, history, philosophy, and economics, a passing
grade in French, and a failing grade in physics. In the light of my record in
other courses, he wondered whether the fault in the physics failure lay
with him or with me.
I told him that the failure was my fault and not his; that I had put
most of my time on courses which I thought would do me some good in
the study of law and government; that I had allowed what I thought was
enough time to pass the courses in physics and French, which I was taking
for the sole purpose of a college degree; and that I had won the gamble in
French and lost the gamble in physics. He told me I was wrong — that
every student, every year, ought to take one distasteful course, or a course
under one distasteful teacher, and do his level best to make his highest
grade on that course — for the sake of the discipline involved. That was my
first direct acquaintance with the word discipline.
That word was what Edward Kidder Graham was talking about
when he said in a chapel talk in my sophomore year: "No student is truly
trained unless he has learned to do pleasantly, and promptly, and with
clean-cut accuracy every task he has obligated himself to do. A man may
decline to undertake a job, but to undertake it and shirk it is a crime in the
world of efficiency. ' ' John Fries Blair did not commit that crime. He not
only did the job assigned to him, he did it with a distinction which I re-
member to this day — with gratitude and admiration.
A paragraph from the Joseph Woods Krutch biography of Samuel
Johnson years ago has this to say about him: "Here was a man who could
be commissioned to do a job in the full confidence that, though he would
approach the job as a job, he would also do a better job than anyone else
working for love or fame at his chosen avocation would have done it."
What Joseph Woods Krutch said about Samuel Johnson I am saying
about John Fries Blair. I wanted so much to say it — out loud and in public
— that I asked to be put on the program to say it here tonight in the pres-
ence of his homefolks, friends, and admirers who have come to Chapel
Hill to do him honor. I am saying it about a man who is as fine a combina-
tion of the gentleman and the scholar as I have ever been privileged to
know. I am saying it about a man who has the sort of mind that automati-
cally throws out trash. I am saying it about a man whom I had rather have
edit and publish a book of mine than any other man I know. I am saying it
about a man whose good taste and good judgment and common decency
and goodwill have made him a neighbor worth having and a colleague
worth working with. In short, he is the man we know as John Fries Blair.
Before presenting our president who will introduce our secret speaker,
I should say just a word about the North Caroliniana Society. You will
observe that we are not a publicity-seeking organization. Our purpose is
to encourage and promote knowledge and appreciation of the cultural her-
itage of the state whose motto is to be rather than to seem. Members are
elected not on the basis of what they can give in the future but rather
what they have done in the past. We seek to recognize those who, like
John Fries Blair, devote their careers to causes that exemplify the collective
character of our state. John, you are the first, and may be the last, recipient
of our award who earned all three of his degrees outside the state. Normally
we are not so broadminded. Later this year we will publish the entire pro-
ceedings of this evening, and a copy will be sent to each on tonight's ticket-
list. At that time a suggestion will be made as to how we all may again
show our appreciation for John's contributions to our state.
As the secretary-treasurer, I have the pleasure of calling the attention
of members to the fact that there are no "In memoriams" on our printed
program, and I thank you all for your consideration in making it through
the year. I urge you to remain in good health, for we don't want to lose
anyone. Besides, it's a bit of a bother to have to print those little boxes.
Archie Davis has been accumulating records ever since he entered the
University of North Carolina. Upon his graduation in the depths of the
depression, a job in a bank looked better than an advanced degree in his
first interest, history. So he became a banker. A real banker. In 1956 he
reached the chairmanship of the board of Wachovia Bank and Trust Com-
pany and became a student of the trombone. There are musicians who say
that he was a great banker, but we have not heard a banker say that he
was a great musician. But he had fun. He served in the state senate, helped
establish the Research Triangle Park, then more recently lured to the Tri-
angle — and is now helping to insure its future — the National Humanities
Center, whose building appropriately was named for him over his objec-
tions. He is the only person, insofar as I can determine, who has served as
president of both the American Bankers Association and the Chamber of
Commerce of the United States. He has carried his love for North Caro-
lina into the boardrooms of major national corporations, and he has bril-
liantly upheld the honor of the South in front of audiences, respectable and
otherwise, throughout the country.
Forty-two years after receiving his bachelor's degree from this uni-
versity, he returned to the classroom and earned a master's degree in his-
tory. Then he did something believed never previously accomplished: He
researched and wrote a dissertation, defended it before a faculty inquisi-
tion, and received a special certificate recognizing the high quality of his
work. The title: "The Boy Colonel: The Life and Times of Henry King
(Harry) Burgwyn, Jr." The size: over 1,300 pages in three volumes. The
weight: Sixteen pounds. We had intended to bring our set of the volumes
for display here tonight, but we were advised that the state's disability in-
surance did not cover strains from carrying heavy loads of library books.
Ladies and gentlemen, North Carolina's ambassador of cultural
goodwill, the president of the North Caroliniana Society — and he was re-
elected this afternoon — Archie K. Davis.
ARCHIE K. DAVIS:
Ladies and gentlemen, you will note that the identity of our next
speaker has been carefully concealed. While the name is not listed on the
program, I can assure you that a surprise witness is now waiting in the
wings. Would that I were free to wax eloquent in my introduction of a
very remarkable person, but I am limited to a very few, brief, unrevealing
This person was trained at a famous riding school in Boston
and has been an equestrian of note.
This person was introduced to John Fries Blair many years ago
through the good offices of mutual friends.
This person has long been impressed by our honored guest's af-
finity for surf fishing and square dancing, which reveals nothing and
suggests nothing — to say the least, the two sports are mutually ex-
Up to this point I have carefully endeavored not to identify the gen-
der of our next speaker, but I must now confess that a lady is involved
and, may I add, a very warm and affectionate relationship has developed
over the years between this lady and John Fries Blair.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am profoundly privileged to present to you a
most remarkable and talented lady, Margaret Blair McCuiston, a warm ad-
mirer, confidant and loyal supporter of her brother John Fries.
Recollections of My Brother
By Margaret Blair McCuiston
September 28, 1903, was a bright sunshiny day. My sister Marian
and I were playing near the grape arbor in my grandmother's yard, next
door to our house, when Grandma came down the hill to join us. I knew
that something important must have happened, because Grandma seldom
walked in the yard. She looked very happy, and she told us that we had a
baby brother. Later in the day, we were taken up the hill to our house to
see the new arrival.
I was disappointed. I thought babies sat up in carriages and shook
rattles, and this one was just lying there, with his eyes closed, not interest-
ing at all. I hasten to add that my disappointment did not last long. Playing
with him became one of my favorite occupations, and I took a personal
pride in each of his accomplishments and achievements. I still do.
I began keeping a diary in 1908, and there have been many entries
connected with John Fries. One of them was his first scheduled appearance
in public, a recitation at the Sunday School Christmas concert in 1910.
An earlier occasion on which his voice was heard, was not chronicled
nor scheduled. It was at his first Lovefeast. Any one of you who have at-
tended a Moravian Lovefeast know that the members of the congregation
wait until everyone has been served before they eat the buns. Nobody had
told me that when I first went, and I took a large bite out of my bun the
moment I received it. That embarrassed my mother greatly. She wanted to
make sure that John Fries did not commit the same social error, so she told
him not to eat until he saw the biship start to do so. Her obedient son
waited until the proper moment, and then announced joyfully, at the top
of his voice, "The bishop has began!"
Marian and John Fries and I were congenial, and the three of us spent
many hours playing together. As Marian and I were older, I think we usu-
ally planned the games. Mostly, they were what we called "make-ups" in
which we had all kinds of imaginary adventures. Sometimes we would in-
vent our roles and sometimes we would act as characters in stories we had
read. John Fries usually enjoyed make-ups but was occasionally frightened.
He told me once that he had been afraid, for weeks, to go into one corner
of the attic, because he thought that Bluebeard's wives were hidden there.
John Fries has the distinction of having entered Salem Academy in
the first grade. Very few children in Salem went to public school. Scat-
tered all over the central part of town were small private schools, usually
taking the children through the fifth grade, after which they entered
Salem Academy or the Salem Boy's School. In 1910, several of the schools
had closed, so Salem Academy stepped into the breach and organized a
new Preparatory School, open to both girls and boys.
John Fries entered the Preparatory School and was there for three
years. All the school students in Salem went to the Home Moravian
Church at 11 o'clock every Wednesday morning. Bishop Edward Rond-
thaler had assigned a hymn stanza to be memorized that week, and each
separate school had to recite it. I don't know how many other hymns my
brother knows by heart, but he certainly knows every word of the stanzas
he recited in young peoples meeting.
In 1913, the towns of Winston and Salem became one municipality
and combined their school systems. This was a great change for the chil-
dren of Salem. Gone were all the small private schools, including the Pre-
paratory School, and gone was the Tinsley Military Institute, which had
succeeded the Salem Boys' School. John Fries entered the Salem grade
school, held in the building which had been used by Tinsley. He has fre-
quently said that attendance at the Wednesday young peoples meetings
was a privilege he wished he might have had longer.
At the age of twelve, John Fries and about a dozen of his friends be-
came Boy Scout Troop #9. This was a major interest in their lives until
they went to college. Our father was scoutmaster, and spent a great deal
of time with the boys. Besides their regular meetings, they took nature
walks on Sunday afternoons and several times went to the coast on fishing
trips, traveling overnight on the train. Their bonds of friendship never
weakened. Reunions of Troop 9 have never ceased to be held. The num-
bers present have grown smaller year by year, but the three surviving
members who live in Winston-Salem still celebrate their birthdays to-
gether every year.
If you think that my brother entered the publishing business only
thirty years ago, you are mistaken. He began his publishing career at the
age of eleven, producing a newspaper called the Enterprise. He wrote the ar-
ticles, printed the paper on his own printing press, and sold the copies for
five cents apiece. The size of the paper, if I remember correctly, was about
four by six inches.
When John Fries entered high school, the location was very conve-
nient. He walked up Cherry Street for four blocks. His high school career
was satisfying. He entered the declamation contest all four years and won
the last three. He was president of the senior class, and won the Mary C.
Wiley prize for the highest grades in English.
Then he followed our father's footsteps and went to Haverford, a
Quaker College near Philadelphia. There he was a Corporation Scholar (a
designation given to the four men in each class with the highest academic
averages). He majored in philosophy and was a member of Phi Beta Kap-
pa; but took time to be a member of the varsity cricket team and to take
part in several plays. He was class orator at commencement.
In the autumn of 1924, John Fries entered Harvard Law School. His
course there was interrupted by a summer spent in Chapel Hill, where he
prepared for and passed the North Carolina Bar examination, and also by a
bout with arthritis, which caused him to miss a whole semester. He grad-
uated from law school in 1928, and then opened an office in Winston-
Salem and practiced law for twelve years.
During that time he served as secretary of the Forsyth County Bar
Association, director of the Junior Chamber of Commerce, president of
the Little Theatre of Winston-Salem, and teacher of a Sunday-School class
at the Home Moravian Church. In spite of these responsibilities, he always
found time for frequent evenings of square dancing, especially with some
of the younger teachers at Salem Academy.
In 1940, having decided that his "interest in things literary was
greater than in things legal," he closed his office and went to Columbia
University for graduate study in English and comparative literature. He re-
ceived a Master of Arts degree in 1941 and continued his studies for an-
He was assistant professor of English at Moravian College in Bethle-
hem, Pennsylvania, for two years and then returned to North Carolina.
For several years, he was assistant director of the Institute of Government
in Chapel Hill and for two years a member of the editorial staff of the Uni-
versity of North Carolina Press. While he was in Chapel Hill he had the
opportunity of participating in his favorite recreation — acting. He remem-
bers with great pleasure his appearances with the Playmakers.
In 1952, John Fries came home to Winston-Salem, and has been liv-
ing, ever since, in the house in which he was born. Residence in Winston-
Salem has given him an opportunity to participate in the activities in
which he is most interested. He has served as elder of the Home Moravian
Church, as delegate to Moravian provincial synods, trustee of Salem Acad-
emy and College and president of the Wachovia Historical Society. He has
also been vice president of the North Carolina Literary and Historical As-
sociation and chairman of the North Carolina Writers Conference.
His interest in the theater has never wavered. He has been behind the
footlights less frequently in recent years, but friends still recall his appear-
ance in a variety of roles, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. He is
remembered for the dignity of Creon in the Antigone of Sophocles and
equally well for the moment in Ladies of the Jury, when he "brought down
the house" by dashing on to the stage, attired in undershirt and shorts,
with his face covered with shaving cream, brandishing a brush.
During his first year back in Winston-Salem, John Fries was assistant
professor of English at Salem College. In 1954, he organized the John F.
Blair Publishing Company. Among the histories, biographies, scholarly
books, records, books of short stories, and books of verse he has pub-
lished, many have been about North Carolina and many have been by
North Carolina writers.
Books he has published have won the Mayflower Cup, the Roanoke-
Chowan Award (three times), the American Association of University
Women Award for children's books (twice), the Thomas Wolfe Award,
and the Oscar Arnold Young Memorial Award. He has also had five win-
ners in the Southern Books Competition, based on design and production.
Expressions of appreciation for John Fries 's work have not been lack-
In 1975, the North Carolina Writers Conference gave him a citation
for help to North Carolina writers during his twenty years of publishing.
In 1978, at the annual meeting of the North Carolina Literary and
Historical Association, he received the Christopher Crittenden Memorial
Award for "significant contribution to the preservation of North Carolina
On May 18, 1981, Wake Forest University bestowed on him the de-
gree of Doctor of Humane Letters.
On April 25, 1982, Reynolda House, Inc., hosted a special recogni-
tion of John Fries Blair with a literary panel and tributes from friends and
authors of the publisher.
The presence of this assemblage tonight is all the tribute which any-
one could wish, but I want to add one more expression of appreciation —
John Fries, you have been my confidant and adviser, and, for the last
twenty years, my loyal companion and escort.
I am not one bit disappointed in you!
Born of a distinguished family, nurtured in the shadow of the old F
and H Fries Mill, the younger brother of two older and loving sisters, and
a man of rare determination and vision, it is significant that our honored
guest has risen to such eminence in spite of these handicaps.
Previous speakers have recounted the achievements of John Fries
Blair and have reflected upon his goodness and greatness. Now, may I add
my own word of praise from the vantage point of one several years his ju-
nior who, as a fellow Moravian, has long been privileged to bask in his re-
In this modern day, in which so many of necessity are caught up in
the complex web of corporate or institutional life, it is increasingly rare to
find one, as in the case of John Fries, who has managed to chart an indepen-
dent course, all the while shaping his own destiny to satisfy his boyhood
dreams. But his has not been the life of a casual journeyman. Although his
many talents, his rare intellect, and diligent pursuit of learning have
somehow permitted him the luxury of playing many roles, each in its own
way has seemingly prepared him for the next.
So, whether scholar, lawyer, teacher, editor, critic, actor, and now a
distinguished publisher, success has attended John Fries at each step along
the way, leaving in its wake a host of admiring friends and a grateful pub-
lic, for the reason that professional excellence and an insatiable desire to
serve have long been the driving forces in the life of our honored friend —
not the search for material gain. This man of many talents has used them
well and for the benefit of many. His goodness is exceeded only by his
modesty, and in honoring him we honor ourselves.
Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the North Caroliniana Society, I
am privileged to present this official citation to our distinguished friend.
Will the real, the inimitable John Fries Blair please rise?
[President Davis then presented the certificate bearing the following
The North Caroliniana Society,
in recognition of his public service and
of his promotion, enhancement, production, and
preservation of the literature of his native state,
North Caroliniana Society Award
John Fries Blair
May 20, 1983
JOHN FRIES BLAIR:
There have been many kind things said about me here tonight. As
Washington Irving once wrote, "What is it to us whether these stories
are true or false, so long as we can persuade ourselves into the belief of
them, and enjoy all the charm of the reality?"
And yet I think, somehow, tonight ought also to be a moment of
truth, so if you will permit me to be very personal, I should like to tell
you a bit about how it really was with me as a child.
When my father attempted to teach me to read, I had no particular
difficulty learning the sounds of the letters (he was using a completely pho-
nic method), but I have a fairly orderly mind (not desk, as some of you can
testify), and a Germanic background on my mother's side, so I thought
the only seemly way to approach a book was to start, always, at the be-
ginning. Since a child's attention span is short, we didn't get far the first
night. As I grew older and my attention span increased, we could get far-
ther into the book, but we never got to the end of it, so I never, fully,
learned to read.
Then there was the question of writing. When I was in the first
grade, Miss Emma Smith sat down before each of us a copy book in which
letters, words, and sentences were written in beautiful Spencerian script at
the top of the page, and we were supposed to copy them exactly on the
numerous lines below. I tried, and my letters had a certain artistic flourish,
and even some resemblance to the originals. But then a tragedy happened.
When the towns of Winston and Salem were combined and we had a
public school right in the heart of Salem, they tried to teach me the Palmer
method, in which the whole arm, rather than just the fingers, was used in
forming letters. Since I was never particularly athletically inclined, I could
never master the arm movement, but my beautiful Spencerian script was
shattered. Taking notes in law school completed the destruction, so that
now my handwriting is legible only by me, and even I can't make out
some of the words sometimes.
And then there was mathematics. I got along fairly well until I got
to plane geometry. Then I was able to master the irrefutable proof of the
proposition that all triangles are isosceles, but since that was palpably un-
true, I lost all faith in mathematical reasoning and dropped the subject as
soon as possible.
Thus, without reading, writing, or mathematics, I emerged from
my early education a functional illiterate.
Thus equipped, I tried various professions: practicing law, teaching,
doing research for the Institute of Government, and editing manuscripts at
the University Press where my crowning achievement was that monu-
mental volume, the university catalogue.
I am thankful for all these experiences, but, like Faust, I could never
say to any of them, Verweile dock, du hist so schon.
In publishing the situation was just as bad. I flitted from muse to
muse, from Clio to Melpomene to Euterpe, and from discipline to disci-
pline until along came a manuscript about learning-disabled children, and I
was soon able to convince myself that I was not only functionally illiterate
but also learning-disabled.
I am deeply indebted to all my authors, but because of the diversity
of their gifts and my distractibility, I have gotten to the point that I some-
times wonder if I know anything about anything.
And now the honor has been bestowed upon me. As George Her-
Who would have thought my shriveled heart
Could have recovered greenness? It had gone
Quite underground, as flowers depart
— when they have blown.
And now, as I enter the company of Paul Green, who has gone be-
fore, Albert Coates, my former boss, Senator Ervin, Sam Ragan, and Dr.
Gertrude Carraway, I feel that I can say of this moment, as Faust could
not say without damnation: Verweile doch, du hist so schon. Linger then, you
are so beautiful.
Mr. President and members of the North Caroliniana Society: I am
completely unworthy of this honor, but I thank you from the bottom of
John, we were cautioned that if we gave you a silver cup, you might
rush out and melt it down. So our award is simply a printed certificate.
We assure you, however, that the cheapness of our tangible gift is in in-
verse proportion to the degree of our recognition and appreciation of your
enrichment of our lives through your distinguished career.
As we thank you for allowing us to spend this evening with you, we
share with you several additional messages.
Harriet Doar, the veteran book review editor from Charlotte, says,
"He's done a lot for area writing while holding a high standard." Alan
Brilliant says that John Fries Blair "is much admired here at Unicorn."
Charleen Swansea of Red Clay Books writes, "I am delighted that the
North Caroliniana Society will be honoring you on May 20. Your contri-
butions to literature and culture in our state have been significant. Your
kindness and help to me when I was a young publisher gave me both cou-
rage and direction. Thank you, John. I wish that I could be with you on
the occasion of this celebration. I send you my love."
And Nell Wise Wechter, writes, "I want to say that Mr. Blair justly
deserves this honor. I'm proud to be one of his earliest authors and one
who was awarded the AAUW prize in 1957. Mr. Blair is a perfectionist,
and he 'taught' his authors to be careful and gave them wonderful advice.
I owe him all that I am, as an author. ... I thank him. . . . I'll be there in
I wanted to personally respond to the gracious invitation you
sent me to share an evening with John Fries Blair when he accepts
the North Caroliniana Society Award on May 20. I can't think of
anyone more deserving of this prestigious honor.
I would appreciate your expressing to Mr. Blair how proud I
am of his contributions to our State's culture and my sincere regrets
that I will be unable to attend. The demands on my time from the
General Assembly, the Chairmanship of the Education Commission
of the States, and my role in the National Governors' Association
create a very hectic schedule, particularly during the next two to
Again, thank you so much for wanting me to share this excit-
ing evening with you.
My warmest personal regards.
Thank you all for sharing this evening with our mutual friend, John
Fries Blair. Good night.
The North Caroliniana (Society,
in recognition d his public service and
of his promotion, enhancement, production. and
preservation of the literature ol his native state.
North Caroliniana (Society Award
May 20. 1983
Archie K. Davis
John F. Blair, Publisher
by Roy Thompson
[Reprinted with permission of author from Winston-Salem Journal,
May 22, 1983]
Knitting his fingers behind his head and staring at the ceiling as is his
way, John Fries Blair said thoughtfully, "I have a suspicion that writing is
the most important thing in the world."
Blair is a 79-year-old bachelor whose lifelong passion has been for the
English language and its most graceful uses.
During his early working life he tried his hand at many things. He
was a scholar, a lawyer, a teacher, a writer, an editor, an actor. . . .
All, it should be noted, are fields of endeavor in which words play an
Blair answered each calling and then decided that it had been a
At 50 ... an age at which many men are daydreaming about the plea-
sures of retirement ... he ignored the well-meant advice of a number of
friends and set a new course for a career as "Jolm F. Blair, Publisher."
In his 29 years as publisher, Blair has added 118 books to the world's
shelves . . . many of them by North Carolinians on subjects of regional in-
terest that might never otherwise have been published.
Friday night in Chapel Hill the North Caroliniana Society an-
nounced that because of his "unusually distinctive service to the state over
a period of years" in supporting and preserving "the historical, literary
and cultural heritage of North Carolina" the society was giving its annual
North Caroliniana Award to John Fries Blair.
The award came at a good time for Blair, because he is giving serious
thought to retiring.
His face is a character actor's face. A splendid face. Deeply lined. Ed-
gar A. Guest would have said that it took a heap of livin' to fashion such a
Observant people who have noted the noble handsomeness of an ag-
ing bloodhound's thoughtful face might see a similarity.
Sharp, alert eyes. A gambler's eyes. He sees more than most people
do. . .even with cataracts.
He dresses in the slightly rumpled, conservative style of a man who
doesn't even know how wide ties and lapels are supposed to be this year
. . .let alone care.
He has the look of a man who never forgets to celebrate the birthday
of the inventor of overstuffed chairs.
Ask him about exercise and he recalls the tennis, hunting, fishing
and gardening of his youth . . . even the time he played on the softball team
of the junior bar association here.
"I have become increasingly sedentary with age," he said with a
smile of vast contentment.
Ask him almost any question beyond name, rank and serial number,
and you will have the experience of watching an answer in the making
long before he has brought that answer to the degree of perfection that he
requires of his answers before sharing them with outsiders.
He is not using the politician's delay tactics to avoid the question or
to tailor it to what he thinks the public would like best to hear.
Blair is a methodical man who wants his answers to be both accurate
Blair the Witness refers the question to the Blair who once did re-
search for the Institute of Government in Chapel Hill, and that Blair
searches the vast mental archives of Blair the Scholar before submitting the
facts to Blair the Writer. . .who carefully fashions the reply before sub-
mitting it to Blair the Editor . . . who polishes the reply before relaying it
to Blair the Publisher . . . who cautiously passes it on to let Blair the Law-
yer go over it for possible legal problems.
Blair's roots must be close to bedrock in Salem. His Fries ancestors
came about 160 years ago, and the Voglers were here before the Revolu-
His father, William A. Blair, was a Quaker (later Moravian) who
came here from south of High Point to be principal of old West End
School. Then he was superintendent of schools for a time before, as Blair
said, "some of the business people lured him away from the schools be-
cause they wanted to set up a new bank and needed an executive for it."
He became president of People's National Bank.
His mother was Mary Fries, a daughter of John W Fries, "who was
one of the three sons of Francis Fries, the manufacturer."
Dr. Adelaide Fries, another daughter, was the author and translator
of Moravian records.
Mary Fries, Blair's mother, was an artist. When she was in Rome
with her parents once, a woman saw her work and wanted to teach her
the art of portrait painting, but the nearest she ever came to that was to do
charcoal portraits of the presidents of Salem College.
The portraits now hang in the Inspector's House at the college.
Grandfather Fries owned the block bounded by Brookstown Avenue
and South Cherry, South Marshall and High streets.
"People bought blocks in those days, not lots," Fries said.
His grandfather's sister owned the block to the east; a brother, the
block to the west; and nephews, the blocks to the northeast and north-
Grandfather Fries had a tennis court, and Blair's parents "did a lot of
courting there," Blair said.
When they were married, his grandfather gave his mother the north
end of his block, and the Blair home was built in 1901 during the Teddy
He was born there in the house he now lives in, and his sister, Mrs.
Robert McCuiston, lives next door in their grandfather's home.
Blair got an early start as a scholar when he and two other grade-
school friends were tutored in Latin and learned enough to "make us feel
at home in it when we got to Latin in high school."
Before he had finished school, he'd had a great deal of Latin, some
German, Greek, French and a bit of Czech.
He got his bachelor of arts degree at Haverford College in 1924 and
his law degree from Harvard University in 1928. . . an excellent year for a
young lawyer to come home and open a legal practice.
The next year was a different story. Blair said, "Then the Great De-
pression set in, and the law was pretty poor pickings." He handled civil
cases mostly. He did a lot of title work.
He didn't make much money, and he didn't have much fun, but he
kept his nose to the grindstone of law for 12 years before deciding, as he
said, that "the law wasn't where my heart lay."
He decided to go to Columbia University for a master's degree in
English. Ironically, his "best-paying case came in" after his decision was
made. It didn't change his mind, but he did stick around long enough to
handle the case and collect his fee before heading north.
He got the new degree and taught for a time at Moravian College in
Pennsylvania before coming home to do research and write for the Insti-
tute of Government in Chapel Hill.
Albert Coates, the founder of the institute, says that some of Blair's
writing to make North Carolina's laws understandable to laymen ranks
with the best the institute ever produced, but Blair decided that the call
that brought him to Chapel Hill had been a wrong number.
He moved to the University of North Carolina Press as an editor,
and one of his early assignments was to edit the university's catalog.
"It was horrible!" he recalls.
At the UNC Press he got an inside look at the publishing business,
and two things about it worried him: The press was publishing little more
than scholarly papers, and national publishers didn't often take a chance on
So some "fine writers of regional books" were finding it very nearly
impossible to get their work published.
In the meantime. . .
Blair, who had always been interested in the theater, became involved
with the Carolina Playmakers. He appeared in some of the productions.
He wrote a one-act play, "Cornbread," which the Playmakers produced
He considered a career in the theater "from time to time" but even-
tually decided that "this wasn't the direction in which I was called."
Then his father died, and Blair was named executor of the estate ... a
task that kept him on the road about as many hours as he was spending in
Chapel Hill or Winston-Salem.
He eventually gave up the job in Chapel Hill and came home.
He taught English at Salem for a year and then . . . against the advice
of his friends . . . rented a basement in Old Salem and hung out a new
shingle that read: "John F. Blair, Publisher."
Friends had said that New York was the place for a publisher. He
might make a go of it in Atlanta. Winston-Salem, no.
Blair, who is known by his full name of ' 'John Fries Blair, ' ' reduced
his name to "John F. Blair" for business purposes.
People away from here had a hard time pronouncing "Fries," he
New York publishers would have advised against opening a new
house with the publication of a book of poetry by a long-dead and little-
known Moravian author, but Blair began with John Henry Boner's
"Whispering Pines," a book first published in New York in 1883.
Blair the Moravian Romantic made the decision to do it; Blair the
Conservative Publisher held the press run to 1,000 copies.
He sold them and gave some thought to a second printing before de-
ciding against it.
Just after he decided, an order for "30 or 40" copies came in from
Years later, he still wonders why.
Today . . . near the close of his publishing career . . . Blair is still hard
One look at his desk will tell a visitor that it's a working man's desk.
There's a sign taped to one corner:
"A neat desk is a sign of a sick mind."
Somewhere back of the great piles of manuscripts, letters, records
and forgotten treasures that cover his desk Blair is concealed.
Around him, behind him, all around the room and filling chairs once
intended for the comfort of visitors one finds a masterpiece of the clutter-
The telephone is still readily findable. He has it on a stack of old di-
rectories lest it be lost forever.
Each year the telephone rises a little higher as a new directory is add-
ed, and when his telephone rings Blair has to stand to reach it.
This . . . according to people who remember his former quarters in
the old First National Bank Building ... is neat by comparison with the
Visitors there sometimes went into his office, mistook it for a store-
room and backed out hastily.
There is a story about his leaving the old building that must be told
in two versions: Blair's and the one given by people with him at the time.
They agree on the problem:
The building was to be imploded on a certain day, and all tenants had
to be out.
Blair was building new quarters, and the building was behind sched-
ule, and he didn't want to have to move twice.
He stayed on . . . hoping for a miracle that never came.
His people packed the rest of the things that were to be moved, but
nobody dared touch anything in Blair's office.
At 1 o'clock on the day which the building was to be imploded at 3
... or others say. . .Blair stood, looked upon his monumental pile of clut-
ter in despair and, saying "I don't know what you're going to do with
Blair agrees with the basic scenario, but he recalls that he helped.
"I'm sure I did," he said.
According to legend, the papers stored in boxes for the move 10
years ago are. . .for the most part. . .still in their boxes.
As his reputation has spread, the number of manuscripts has greatly
increased and Blair, who used to read everything that came in, now finds
reading 500 to 600 manuscripts a year "a physical impossibility. "
He still reads everything he is to publish, and he reads a lot of manu-
scripts that he doesn't publish.
He estimates that he is now publishing about one manuscript in
every 100 that the postman brings. A lot of people who suspect them-
selves of being undiscovered geniuses of American literature send their
work to him.
"We read a lot of bad stuff," Blair said.
(He has a rule: "I try not to say anything to the author when I re-
turn a bad manuscript. I don't want to offer any false encouragement for
him to try again in the same way.")
He's the last to come to work in the mornings. About 11 as a rule.
But he usually keeps on working at home until 1 to 2 a.m.
He still enjoys the variety that comes with being a publisher: "One
day I'm reading about Hatteras Island, and the next day it's carnivorous
plants, and the next day it's something else, and the next day, something
The one-in-a-hundred author whose work is accepted for publication
by Blair is luckier than he or she usually knows, because Blair's books are
novelties in today's publishing business.
Blair has no patience with the notion that things produced today
have to be shoddy. He still produces books that are widely recognized for
their technical excellence.
He still uses a high-quality paper that will be readable 50 years from
now instead of turning yellow or turning to dust as most of today's books
are doomed to do.
Most of his books are still set by hand. It costs more, but it produces
Many of them are still hand-sewn rather than glued as most books
His writers get more editorial assistance than writers get from most
And there is this . . .
Most publishers are very conservative in ordering second printings of
their books, but Blair, who went into business in the first place to give re-
gional authors a chance to see their books in print, believes in taking a
chance and keeping them in print.
It costs to do the new edition. It costs to store the books until they
sell. And he has to pay taxes on the unsold books.
Blair takes quiet pride in the fact that about 100 of the 118 books he
has published are still available.
Generally speaking, however, he is uncomfortable in talking about
ways in which his books are superior.
There have been awards. Many of them.
But when pressed for comment on the high quality of his books,
about all he would say was that Virginia Ingram, his book designer, and
Mitzi Shumate, her predecessor, have had a lot to do with it.
Charles E. Whedbee's tales about the Outer Banks have been his
His most ambitious book, perhaps, was Carnivorous Plants of the
United States and Canada by Donald E. Schnell. It has been favorably re-
viewed all over the world and has been called "the definitive book on car-
Blair went out on a limb with it and ordered a first printing of
15,000 copies. . .of which, he said, "We still have quite a few."
But people have ordered it from Australia, Singapore, Japan, Eng-
land, Finland, and the orders are still coming in.
Blair's pet book is Ben Dixon MacNeill's The Hatterasman.
"It was the first book I published that acquired any distinction," he
said, "and I've never lost my affection for it."
He has "at least one copy around here somewhere" of each of the
118 books he has published.
His philosophy as a publisher is pretty much the same now as when
he got into the business 29 years ago:
"I think it is important to preserve, rather than destroy, regional dif-
ferences. I think that regional companies can have an effect in helping to
preserve the history of a region, something of the speech, something of
the tradition and the folklore. . .
"I believe that a publisher should, within certain limitations of taste
and political outlook, give the people the opportunity to say what they
have to say, if it's worth saying, and then present it in as attractive a form
as he knows how.
"A publisher's taste should be fairly catholic and his acceptance of
ideas fairly wide. One year, for example, I published a biography of Tom
Dixon, who was certainly a racist, and a book about Nat Turner, the slave
Blair still believes that he was right in coming home and becoming a
regional publisher rather than going to New York, where the publishing
action has been for so long.
He believes that the publishing business may be starting to move out
of New York slowly because of high rents and fear of walking in the
streets at night.
He deplores the trend of conglomerates' buying up publishing
"I think there is a love of literature and a sense of rightness in the use
of words ... a sense, maybe, even of the significance of ideas that is not
enough the major concern of a company that owns businesses in various
fields, but a good many publishing companies have been bought . . . many
of them by people who don't know anything about publishing."
Now, at 79 and plagued by cataracts that will soon require surgery,
Blair is concerned about his eyes and his "general age and decrepitude."
Blair said, "I hope I have sense enough to know that nobody is inde-
structible, and I have reached an age of increased destructibility. I think it's
sort of foolish for a man as old as I am to carry that much of that kind of
"Unless I make arrangements for some kind of succession my au-
thors might not be very well protected in case anything happened to me.
"If I should become incapacitated, and there isn't really anybody
who would have the authority to make decisions, and I don't know how
to hedge on that sort of thing.
"I have given my executor extraordinary powers to carry on the
business if I should pass on."
And then there was this. . .
"I have no time left for writing. Trying to solve another author's
problems leaves you exhausted . . . takes your creative energy.
"I have a play that has been partly written for years (nearly 40 years)
that I should very much like to complete."
Blair didn't want to talk much about his play.
"It's historical," he said, "It's about an important and somewhat
neglected incident in history, and it expresses certain attitudes of mine."
That's the thing!
-Photo by Cookie Snyder
NORTH CAROUNIANA SOCIETY, INC.
North Carolina Collection
UNC Library 024-A
Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27514
Chartered on September 11, 1975, as a private nonprofit corporation under provi-
sions of Chapter 55A of the General Statutes of North Carolina, the North Caroliniana
Society has as its main purpose the promotion of increased knowledge and apprecia-
tion of North Carolina heritage through studies, publications, meetings, seminars,
and other programs, especially through assistance to the North Carolina Collection
of The University of North Carolina Library in the acquisition, preservation, care,
use, and display of, and the promotion of interest in, historical and literary materials
relating to North Carolina and North Carolinians. The Society, a tax-exempt organi-
zation under provisions of Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, depends
upon the contributions, bequests, and devises of its members and friends.
Unofficially limited to one hundred North Carolinians who have contributed sig-
nificantly to the state, the Society elects additional individuals meeting its criterion of
"adjudged performance," thus bringing together men and women who have
shown their respect for and commitment to our state's unique historical, literary,
and cultural inheritance.
A highlight of the Society's year is the presentation of the North Caroliniana Society
Award to an individual adjudged to have given unusually distinguished service
over a period of years to the encouragement, promotion, enhancement, produc-
tion, and preservation of North Caroliniana.
The North Carolina Collection, the headquarters for the North Caroliniana Soci-
ety, has been called the "Conscience of North Carolina," for it seeks to preserve
for present and future generations all that has been or is published about the state and
its localities and people or by North Carolinians, regardless of subject. In this mis-
sion the Collection's clientele is broader than the University community; indeed, it
is the entire citizenry of North Carolina as well as those outside the state whose re-
search extends to North Carolina or North Carolinians. Its acquisitions are made
possible by gifts and private endowment funds; thus, it also represents the respect
that North Carolinians have for their heritage. Members of the North Caroliniana
Society have a very special relationship to this unique institution which traces its
beginnings back to 1844 and which is unchallenged as the outstanding collection
of printed North Caroliniana in existence. A leaflet, "North Carolina's Literary
Heritage," is available without charge from the Collection.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Archie K. Davis, President
William S. Powell, Vice-President
H.G. Jones, Secretary-Treasurer
Gertrude S. Carraway
Louis M. Connor, Jr.